The remodel became more of a collaboration as the owners continued
to refine their vision. He was driving by a bank in Mill Valley one day, for
example, and admired the metal fascia on the building, deciding it would
be perfect for the exterior of their home. “I called Philip and I said, ‘I
really want this,’ ” he recalls.
The architects set to work replicating the fascia — now an assertive
band of aluminum composite that surrounds the top of the home’s exte-
rior — but the owners’ input often delayed the schedule. “I think if we
were to go back, a big change we would have made was selecting all the
materials before starting construction,” she says. “That’s where we got
into some trouble.”
During the remodel they also decided to move the dining room, origi-
nally adjacent to the kitchen and separated from the living room area by
a t wo-foot-thick divider, so the new owner wouldn’t have to be separated
from family and friends while she cooked. Relocating the dining area to
the other side of the divider, they created an inviting family room next
to the kitchen, with a 75-inch television and a curved Della Robbia couch
for hanging out.
That process brought a major upgrade to the room divider that now
separates the family and dining rooms: originally a plaster structure
over a stone fireplace, it was replaced with a minimalist slit of a fireplace,
embedded in lava rock and topped with an asymmetrical pattern of sapele
wood. It feels like a piece of art and is accented by a modern chandelier
made of 29 glass balls descending from various heights from the ceiling.
It is nature, however, that ultimately takes center stage. Just outside the seating area in the living room is a Zen garden designed by San
Rafael’s Pedersen Associates, with a stone water fountain and drought-tolerant plants. A few steps down, in the newly hardscaped backyard, a
succulent garden bursts with color from echeveria, aloe and crassula.
The architects and landscape architects also redesigned the front yard,
creating a warmer-looking entry. The “stars of the show,” Pete Pedersen
says, are two 150-year-old olive trees from the Central Valley that now
flank the driveway. New front yard plantings — asparagus fern, Cape rush,
Berkeley sedge — echo the architecture, with clean, simple lines.
One aspect the owners love about the home is that it’s “see-through.”
The full-length windows of the kitchen/family room look straight across
the entry way to those of the game room, where the new man of the house
most frequently hangs out. That’s partly because it’s so comfortable, with
its TV, leather couch, wet bar and pool table, but he also likes the room’s
design. One side is all glass doors opening to a patio and bocce court,
plus views of the oaks and Mount Baldy. A rough stone wall — also an
exterior wall — stands in the back of the room; in the front is a fireplace,
the owner’s favorite feature of the house.
In fact, he spent countless hours thinking of ideas for this fireplace,
before asking San Francisco artist Mike Danielson to make it of scrap
metal, pockmarked by saltwater erosion, from an old 1920s ship in
Seattle. It’s a nice artistic flourish for this stylish man cave.
It’s also emblematic of how the couple worked together. He dove deep
on the details; she wanted decisions to be made. “We spent a lot of time
on the house. Maybe too much,” he says, “but we’re better for it now. We
communicate better and we understand each other better too.” Their
reward for living through the renovations, even as they started their “we
life” together, is a serene home that feels as if it’s in conversation with the
views and the trees. “Now,” she says, “we think of this as our retreat.” m
The family room area,
with clerestory windows,
The open cook’s kitchen
has quartzite counters
and walnut cabinets.